The weather is warming up, and for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) this often means an increase in wildland and grass fires, particularly when conditions are dry.
The WFPS battled nearly 200 wildland fires last year. These fires caused significant damage to green spaces, requiring hundreds of firefighters to extinguish them and to protect neighbouring properties at-risk.
WFPS crews use specialized wildland-urban interface equipment to fight these fires. This includes tanker trucks, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and two wildland fire apparatus which were added to the fleet last year.
Assistant Chief of Fire/Rescue Operations Ihor Holowczynsky notes that wildland fires behave differently than structure fires, spreading over a large area of land making them difficult to fight.
Nicknamed the Bison, the WFPS apparatus are designed to operate in wildland areas. They are equipped with various pump-and-roll capabilities, one of which lets the crew pump water from a mounted turret while inside the enclosed cab. This offers added protection for firefighters while increasing the speed at which water can be applied to a fire.
“These apparatus are designed for wildland fire suppression. They have great ground clearance with military grade tires so they can traverse wild terrain more easily, which is critical when fighting wildland fires,” said Holowczynsky.
The vehicles joined the existing wildland fire complement, which is made up of a Wildland Fire Emergency Response Unit trailer, a tow vehicle, and an ATV.
While the Bison help firefighters battle wildland fires, it’s imperative that residents be vigilant to help prevent wildland fires altogether.
“Wildfires can start in a grassy area and then quickly spread to nearby homes or structures when the fire throws off sparks or embers,” said Public Education Coordinator Doug Sinclair.
Sinclair added that residents should keep burn barrels as far from structures and trees as possible, and always ensure the barrel is properly vented and screened. Ensure you have a permit for any fire pits or burn barrels and remember to keep firewood piles away from homes or structures. It’s also important to never dispose of cigarettes out of car windows or while walking on outdoor paths because they can smolder and start a fire.
May 1 is Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, organized by the National Fire Protection Association, and Sinclair said it’s a good time to start thinking about wildfire prevention in your own neighbourhood.
“If you see a wildfire or a grass fire, call 911,” said Sinclair.
Additional safety tips for homeowners can be found in the Government of Manitoba’s FireSmart Manual.
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